How often have you had something on your mind that you needed to discuss with your partner, but the right time just never seemed to present itself?
It’s a common problem. The topics that we put off are always the challenging ones. Maybe you have bad news to deliver, something is troubling you about your relationship, or you want to make a change that you don’t expect your partner to be very happy about. Whatever it is, it’s natural to avoid it in the name of waiting for the ideal moment.
Of course, that could mean you’ll be waiting an awfully long time, because there’s really no such thing as the “perfect” time for a difficult discussion.
The good news is that your heart is in the right place. You know it would be a mistake to broach a touchy subject when your partner is tired and stressed out, or when the kids are within earshot . Still, don’t wait forever, or you may find that whatever’s bothering you stays bottled up until the worst possible time, and you blurt it because you’ve reached the height of frustration. Instead, plan for the right time. But how? Well, here are a few suggestions…
Follow Your Instincts
Before planning a serious discussion about what’s on your mind, do a gut check. While in most cases letting things fester only makes them worse, if you’ve been particularly stressed out and finding yourself overreacting to situations that otherwise wouldn’t bother you, you might want to wait a day or two and see how you feel before broaching a problem that today seems catastrophic. Some things may blow over on their own once you’ve had a chance to calm down. However, if your gut tells you this is going to keep bothering you until you’ve talked it through, by all means, do so.
SEt the Stage
Get a sitter and go to a favorite restaurant, take a scenic evening walk or whatever you especially enjoy doing as a couple. The benefits are obvious: The kids won’t be around to distract you, and the change of scenery will probably put both of you in a good frame of mind. There is one caveat: you must advise your partner ahead of time that you have something serious you want to discuss. The last thing you want to do is make him or her feel they’ve walked into a trap.
Think ahead of time about what you want to say. It doesn’t mean you need you write a script, but you do want to make sure your main concerns or wishes are heard and taken seriously. At the same time, approach the discussion prepared to listen and keep an open mind.
Similarly, be prepared for your partner to disagree or even react angrily to what you have to say. Often we fear this will happen—why else would we be avoiding the topic in the first place?—only to find that our partner has been thinking the same thing themselves. But not always. If your partner doesn’t respond the way you were hoping, try and keep talking—calmly, rationally and respectfully—until you can reach a mutually satisfying compromise. However, if you or your partner becomes so emotional or angry that the conversation is no longer productive, be prepared to take a break and maybe table the subject until the next day.
Put it on Ice – Temporarily
If you can stop before things get really heated, maybe you can change course and go do something fun where there’s no talking required…like going to that movie you’ve been dying to see. You might not yet have resolved anything, but you’ll have made a start, which is often half the battle.
If you need help talking through a difficult subject—or want to improve your communication skills as a couple—please give us at a call at 949-220-3211 or schedule an appointment via our online calendar. We at the Relationship Center of Orange County are here to help you.